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Apr 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 7)

Ongoing Pursuit of Sustainable Operations

Industry Has Embraced All Things Green and Is Operating Ahead of Government Mandates

  • Facilities and General Operations

    Although environmentally friendly practices in the past have been heavily shaped by legislation and regulation—normally viewed as economic burdens—green operations almost always reduce costs if executed properly, and may become a profit center. Andy Wells, Ph.D., senior principal scientist at AstraZeneca’s Charmwood, U.K. facility notes, “Greener is often less expensive because it requires less input and generates less waste.”

    Like most large drug makers, AstraZeneca’s sustainability programs encompass all areas of operation, from offices and physical plants to laboratories and manufacturing. Each of the company’s U.S. sites has a team that focuses on waste reduction and sustainability and shares best practices with other locations.

    One goal is to reduce all types of waste, including hazardous and nonregulated waste (e.g., trash). Reductions in hazardous waste last year equaled 21%, and nonhazardous waste 17%, compared with 2007 levels. AstraZeneca recycles, reuses, or employs as an energy source about 68% of the trash, recyclables, waste pharmaceuticals, and nonregulated chemicals it generates. Eighty-eight percent of the rubble generated from its Waltham, MA, expansion was recycled rather than landfilled.

    Several years ago AstraZeneca’s Westborough, MA, manufacturing site used competitive bidding to identify a vendor that could purchase and recycle the company’s plastic waste. Last year, this arrangement earned AstraZeneca more than $600,000 and saved the company almost an equivalent amount in disposal costs.

    Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals takes a fence-to-fence approach to environmental efforts that encompasses its offices, R&D labs, and API manufacturing. James Breitlow, who heads health, environment, and safety services at the facility, notes that the connection between green practices and profit at Bayer is strong.

    Recycling was one of the first initiatives undertaken by Bayer. Today the company recycles 86% of all the nonhazardous waste it generates, a level Breitlow describes as “phenomenal in our industry.” Part of the program involves products and materials that are, by pharmaceutical industry standards, off-specification. These are either recycled or, in some cases, donated to nonprofit institutions such as schools.

    Water consumption at Bayer Berkeley, another target area, was down 7.5% this past year. The site, which manufactures biologicals, uses a lot of WFI, says Breitlow. The company has made a concerted effort to reduce WFI usage, which saves not only water and wastewater generation, but the vast quantities of energy required to generate the ultrapure water.

    Breitlow could not comment on the greening of specific unit operations in his site’s biomanufacturing plants, but he did cite implementation of KanBan, a Japanese operational excellence method for managing inventory. This program assures that raw materials will be available at the point of use when they are needed, thereby saving time and energy and preventing excess materials from going into expiry.

    Bayer has plans to expand its environmental efforts, for example:

    • establishing its global carbon footprint to drive energy reduction;
    • shifting its focus from recycling to waste reduction and re-use. For example, Bayer has engaged ten of its raw materials suppliers to reduce packaging waste and take back some types of container;
    • greater emphasis on air and water quality. One strategy involves reducing the quantity of disinfectant isopropyl alcohol use, perhaps replacing it with peroxide or, in some instances, bleach;
    • minimizing electrical energy use by targeting lighting and electrical equipment;
    • reducing natural gas consumption, thereby lowering greenhouse gas emissions. One relevant strategy involves reducing the temperature on hot WFI. “A one degree temperature change can make a big difference,” says Breitlow.
    • reducing water use while improving its quality;
    • instituting a take-back program for unused pharmaceuticals, a potential source of environmental pollution;

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